"We asked if there was an appeal process and (the Department of Homeland
Security) indicated there was not," Lee, D-Oakland, said during a brief press conference at port headquarters. "They told us (getting money this year) is not an option."
As a result, port officials say the four projects planned to make the maritime complex more secure will have to be put on hold.
What concerns port officials and elected leaders the most, however, is the federal government's categorization of Oakland as one of the "least at-risk" ports in the nation.
Despite being the fourth largest container port in the United States and located in the middle of the Bay Area's 8 million residents, the port was placed in the last of four tiers that gauge a port's risk to terrorism.
Why that occurred remained a mystery Tuesday even after several meetings among Homeland Security officials, congressional leaders and port staff.
"For the life of me, and all of us, I can't figure out why the Port of Oakland was placed in tier four," Lee said. "We should be in tier one." Port officials learned last week they had not qualified for any money from Homeland Security's annual Port Security Grant Program.
It was the first time since the program
Oakland had requested $6 million this year to complete four projects. Those included construction of biometric identification portals at each maritime terminal, outfitting trucks with radio frequency identification tags and improving wireless communications throughout the complex.
Port Executive Director Jerry Bridges said the programs will be delayed until the federal government decides to fund them.
"We would love to be in a financial position to fund all of the federally required programs, but our checkbook is not that strong," Bridges said.
Bridges said the port will continue to meet with Homeland Security officials and the U.S. Coast Guard to figure out why it was placed in the fourth tier of at-risk ports.
Meanwhile, Lee said she will lobby Homeland Security to ensure Oakland gets funds next year.
"Of course, I will suggest they go back to the drawing board," she said.